tv Bipartisanship in Crises CSPAN November 25, 2010 9:10pm-11:00pm EST
recent because we not only love our country, we love democracy. we love freedom. we are happy you are participating. with that, i turn you over to my beloved, my desk bipartisan friend, for one vital a trip -- for one final introduction. [applause] >> thank you. this is our final panel. we want to thank them and all the students and people in the community who came out to this. it is a good thing for us to have here. we are delighted to be able to show our city all. i got all gussied up. i want to introduce our next speaker.
the -- there is a little bit of a college professor in may. i am going to use this as a teaching moment. what happened on august 29, 2005, in new orleans in st. bernard parish was a colossal engineering failure. we did not call it a national disaster. it was an engineering failure plain and simple. however, what happens on the mississippi discus was more devastating. to understand the physics of the hurricane in the gulf of mexico, the last place you want to be is on the eastern side of the eye. it literally came up the pearl river which is the line that separates the louisiana and mississippi.
our next speaker -- after this happened, he refused to be silent and spoke out very forcefully. she grew up in bay st. louis. she went to the university of southern mississippi. i hope brett farve has not texted you any pictures. [laughter] all the dallas cowboys would have a seminar on how to win. [laughter]
cataline has distinguished herself in journalism and by her passion and advocacy in journalism for the region's she dearly loves. she has received many awards in her professional career. she has written a book, "rising from katrina," which documents what happened. it is important for people to understand what happened here, what happened in st. bernard parish, and what happened across the southern tier of the state of mississippi. there is a lot of disinformation out. she is very schooled in crisis management.
i want to really thank be bipartisan people and the people in this community. we particularly thank the students from tulane. it is a delight to participate. i am going to turn it over to cataline. thank you. >> i appreciate that so much. it is important to all of us to make that distinction. the edgep right into reductions. to my left this lanny davis. he worked for president bill clinton. he was the spokesman on campaign finance and legal issues. he served three terms on the democratic national committee.
in 2005, he was appointed by president bush to serve on the civil liberties oversight board. next to him is maureen. she is the former chairman and ceo of the recording industry association of america. she is also the founder -- she is also a sought after adviser for many democratic candidates. next is dan bartlett. his distinguished -- he served in several high-ranking positions in the white house. he was counsel for the president. he was an instrumental in the president's 2000 and 2004 campaign. he is currently president and ceo of public strategy.
paul needs no introduction to many of you in the room. he was a democratic strategist who served as a political contributor to see in and -- served as a political contributor to cnn. he served with bob casey jr. and sr.. the serbs with bill clinton in 1992. finally, congressman joseph cal. he is the first be nominated to serve in the united states congress. he is representing the second district of louisiana or 2009. he probably has better perspective than most. he has been voted out of office.
he lost his home and his office in the hurricane five years ago. thank you for joining us. i covered the hurricane as a warden of the mississippi gulf coast. standing in the rubble of what was left, it was in it -- it was the first natural disaster for the united states in modern history. that is when parties have to come together. is that not what we have a government? i want to talk about, first of all, let's look at the worst- case scenario. when you look at recent crisis, in a perfect world we would all join hands and saying to pollo -- and sing kumbaya.
where has bipartisanship at a time in crisis fallen on its face? >> the churches we had a pretty good record of america pulling -- the truth is we have a pretty good record of america pulling together. president bush got to i did not support politically, gave what of the great speeches in my lifetime on 9/11 before a joint session of congress. we were all democrats and we were all republicans that night. i do think that katrina, while it was a terrible tragedy end and still disappointed about the response, there are no red stains or blue states. our hearts broke. president clinton went to oklahoma city to pull the country together.
the country does have a history of bipartisanship when it really matters. unfortunately the focus on scandal as a political weapon and the focus on it using investigation or, god help us if we have any kind of problems again, the use of that constitutional muster that skandia predicted, we went through times in the '80s where democrats misused the system and criminalize political differences. a number of people were asset dictums of the democratic scandal machine, -- a number of people work victims of the democratic scandal machine. >> the parties are always
working together. >> i remember katrina a little bit. i think he is right about 9/11. after 9/11, what you had from president bush was a classic public relations crisis. it is the classic roles of public relations crisis. commit to change. get people involved. transparency with the press. george bush is a classic leader after 9/11. i sort of remember katrina a little bit differently in that, i do not remember democrats being quite as generous as george bush, myself included, during katrina. we were pulling together as a country after 9/11.
i think by that time people were angry about the war, parties were more divided, it was a much more partisan environment. we have to give president bush the benefit of the doubt. what we were hearing from local folks is that the response was not good enough. you could see it. aggressively and obviously on tv periods we used it a lot against the president. >> did endure what you're trying to accomplish? >> iraq to fight back. we probably spent too much time -- you have to fight back. we probably spent too much time. if you let preconceived notions take hold. that is what happens in a crisis. sometimes you get to the default positions. i think hillary is right. the difference between 9/11 and
katrina was the conduct. president bush has been very candid that he made some serious mistakes with the response to katrina. there was water under the bridge politically. those in the election cycle "the empire met in washington would not give them the benefit of the doubt periods the party did come together. there were exceptions to that. someone stood upper -- someone stood up and asked the white house what she could do to help. i think what is happening is the rallying but that that takes place is going to a shorter cycle. that is a concern. when we do come together as a country, we actually betsy did governments come out of it.
-- we actually see good government come out of it. they had to do what they had to do. they were punished very partially at the polls. the politicians would say, "will i be rewarded or punished for acting in a bipartisan way?" >> in the deaths of the national crisis, i saw washington at its finest. i saw democrats and republican leaders coming together that was absolutely necessary for the sake of our country and the sake of the american people. i know it can work. i hope we can make it work at other times as well. paul, what is the lesson?
so many heads have rolled. will people next i'd be reluctant? >> i hope so. this is way more complicated than six teachers tell us. yes, there are times when we want to lay down our swords at all unite. there are other times when the most patriotic thing you can do is a descent. i wish republicans had been more partisan and the democratic president of the united states decided after pearl harbor -- let's discriminate against americans and put them in concentration camps. this is the darkest moment in the last century. dart is another good example. -- tarp is another good example.
in katrina, everybody was trying to do their job. i know that. i tell emblematic of the disconnect, a senator was busting our rear ends. republican leaders were doing their best to help your state. i really think they were. she could have had a partisan ax to grind. she went on cnn. she said, "i want to thank the republican leaders and the republican chairman of the program." anderson had bodies at the convention center he was stepping over. he is doing his job. it looks like nobody seems to care. it looks like they were being ignored.
it is enormously complicated to know when the best thing for our country is too often. $750 billion -- senator $50 billion of -- $750 billion the line >> >> it is hard to know. that is the problem. the best thing to do in a crisis is to take a moment to be bipartisan, but sometimes it is the worst thing. >> you were here. what is your opinion from your perspective. did the parties get it right? was there enough bipartisan shipped -- bipartisanship?
>> i would like to compare it to the bp oil spill. i believe that a congressional leadership -- everyone wanted to help people. there were things that needed to be done. there were people that were hurt. they saw the same thing in regard to the oil spill. i guess there were positions being pushed and pulled within the party. for example, the democrats -- the republicans wanted to take control of the congress. you seldom taking punches at the
president in order to get some political points or to get back into power. that is where i saw all the partisanship come into play. we all wanted to help people, but at the same time, we were pulling punches to get political points, to paint the other side to look bad. we tried to convince people that we were doing the best job. >> what happens when a president at a time of national crisis takes an action that is partisan? we were discussing bp and what you do about that. tell us what you saw. >> one of the concerns i have considered the moratorium. i do not know whether or not
that was a partisan decision. from my perspective, the decision was made to satisfy the left. at the same time, we live off of tourism, all of the gulf. we get oil and gas from the gulf. oftentimes people do not understand the dynamics of how those bits and pieces work together. we were very much frustrated with the moratorium. we were trying to push for it to end quickly. we thought the decision was suspended due to partisan
politics. >> what about the media? >> someone made a statement that a producer makes careers on a talk show and never tried to discus serious ideas. the producer said stop the bipartisan crap. what responsibility does the media have do you think in providing that? >> i think it was clear during 9/11 and katrina, even the financial crisis though that was a tenuous point in the presidential election, the media was unusually involved in the story. in some ways that made it more important and more personal.
anderson standing in front of mary landrieu yelling at her was completely natural. it was probably what everyone watching wanted to do. if you were in mississippi talking about where you were growing up, there was an unusual amount of being a part of the story. i will not say it has changed journalism at all, but it has changed television news in many respects. it is shortages passionate did -- it is sort of this passionate -- dispassionate. >> that is a good anchor's cried. [laughter] >> i am troubled by the actions
of distinctions nowadays between the media, which is supposed to be about journalism, fax, and truth -- checking the facts before you publish or post. the jungle of people who are not journalists to post and published based upon other postings and publications that have not been verified. just recently an organization that i am m -- that i am a great admirer of published something about me filled with false statements. it was a publication of the center.
i called the reporter and said, "why did you wait until after you posted to call me because i could have corrected the false assertions?" he said to me, "it was all over the internet. i think it is legitimate to publish." by the way, this is not atypical i am sorry to tell you. in the world theatnet, post first, that checks second if at all. -- in the world of the internet, post first, fact check second if
at all. where is the fact checking and the distinction between entertainment and journalism? >> you were literally in the eye of the storm. let's talk a little bit about the media in times of crisis. >> it is tough because there are a couple of facts you have to deal with. one is the speed and paste it because the transmission of information -- reporters are pushing harder and harder because they have to be out faster and faster. they are pushing decision makers to make decisions faster.
unfortunately they are not always good decisions. you hope they turn out right. sometimes you do not have the luxury. when you're dealing with journalists, in many respects, they are saying rare moments themselves. sometimes they say, "this is my pulitzer moment." i was on air force one on september 11 will we left fort up from the elementary school to go back to washington. we landed at an air force base in louisiana. the decision was we were going to go to one more place, but we would condense the size of the presidential package. we would cut people of press reporters from 16 to 8. we did not know if we get all smaller helicopters or other things. we had to decide which reporters could go and which ones were left on the tarmac in
louisiana. one journalist went crazy i was thinking, you are panicking. now is your big moment to write your pulitzer prize winning speech. you are dealing with the emotions of journalists. you are dealing with your own personal emotions. it is not healthy for good decision making to say the least. that is why i think the ability for us to endure in a bipartisan climate during crisis will be more and more difficult. >> you have no idea how many times i have walked into the situation room and found them watching cnn. we call -- they are watching cnn to see what is going on.
tv stations are calling them to see what is going on. it is a loop. there are different roles. i think the senator is exactly right. i think what anderson cooper did was exactly right. if you step back and look at this week in history, the greater risk in the media is when they are on board then when they are being too negative. the bigger risk is when they feel like they have to put aside the questions and concerns. there lies much more damage than too much partisanship from the media. >> i want to talk about the issue of crisis as an opportunity. the l.a. times had a story a few weeks ago. i do not know if you read it. they argued that bold action --
they argued that americans resist change. the only what it when there is a national calamity. ron emmannuel said no one wants a crisis to go to waste. it is an opportunity for us to do things we could not do before. if they are true, how did the parties come together to make sure these opportunities are not wasted or overly exploited? >> human nature. we do not pay our bills until the bill collector is banking on the door. we tend to wait for the last moment to avert a crisis. that happened before we took affirmative action. we probably should have done it months before. the leadership component is where it separates the women
from the girls or man from the boys. do you use that as an opportunity to bring people together, to look past the five minutes of media headlines to figure out where you need to be in the next 24 hours and the next 36 hours. i think in several places you can see that. people say the bp is still ride charlie chris's career, but -- rist's career. when you talk about the tarp, it probably cemented john
mccain's defeat. the book -- barack obama was willing to engage. what happens in those moments, i think, that is where the human nature component comes in. >> aqaba at this in the perspective of the stimulus bill. we seem to think it was a crisis. we needed the stimulus bill in order to put people back to work, to do what ever we need to do to bring the economy back. what i saw from the bill was a lot of bipartisanship. it was based on the perception of myself [unintelligible]
more government, were spending -- more spending. therefore, we saw a spending bill, which the country is trying to recoup. >> i guess i am johnny one note. i had no problems with national -- with natural disasters and how the political process reacts. usually pull together. sometimes you do not. to this day, whether it is a republican president or democratic president, it is manufactured crisis that is politically motivated in order to score points.
but the democrats did to george bush in the '80s, the republicans did it to bill clinton in the '90s. investigations were used as a political weapon. you had 300 subpoenas. if there was one republican standing and saying we needed to cut out another cycle of investigating each other or using the investigatory powers of congress, we are back in another cycle. unless somebody says, "that is a manufactured crisis," an seized on it, that is what made the clinton administration backbreaking scandal.
we are not out of this cycle. we are right back in it with republicans in the house. >> crisis as opportunity. >> i think, where there is an opportunity for overreach is that the republicans or a pretty good judge of that. they are saying do not let it go to waste. your try to push too much. it goes way beyond what we were doing. you are trying to make up for 40 years worth the democrat congressional demands for agenda. they are saying, "wait a minute."
that was kind of a curtailing yvette. the same things you could argue in the sense that president bush during post-9/11. a lot of people were saying they did not sign up for iraq. in the beginning, there was bipartisanship. as soon as it was set, that is where that bipartisan coalition decided to crumble. what is the mandate the public is giving you? as it is you get too far out, they are not too good at stepping back. >> i was working for president clinton. at the worst of it, his approval rating was 71%. it is not because they approved of his personal conduct. they were appalled. the media loved him. they could not get enough of him. the republicans loved him.
dan burton did a two-year investigation of president clinton's christmas card list. hundreds of thousands of dollars of legal bills from asset public employees. it was terrific. the voters corrected that. they did not reward that. i think they felt likpresent obama came in with the economic crisis and overreached. voters and figure things out. days after president clinton had to testify in front of the grand jury which can start videotaped and broadcast to the world, we had to bomb a solid bin laden. we have actual intelligence. we knew where he was in
afghanistan. president clinton launched a massive tomahawk cruise missile to go and kill him. there were some on the right to accused him of doing that to distract attention away from himself. the generals and the joint chiefs are not political guys. we do not need to get him. we were winning on the scandal. when people said that, they were very quickly punished by their own constituents. they said it was a really bad terrorist. we have him. we missed him by that much. they said, ok. you did the same thing in operation desert fox. citizens were kind of cool about it. the easily sort these things through right. >> this is the last panel of the
day. we are going to go to questions a little bit earlier. we have a microphone right here. we are looking for -- you can make a brief remark, but we are really looking for questions. >> could you say something about bush's memoirs that came out and white the call was made to do a fly over instead of going to bat rouge and meeting with leaders? >> first and foremost, i think the book provides some insight. the president made a lot of controversial decisions in his presidency. it gives people an opportunity to hear his first-hand account. there are a lot of things that took place. it is always compelling to hear the president's views on things. in that respect, the week of
katrina was productive periods we had dealt with a lot. we had a series of gaffes in decision making. you have president bush at a book. he took accountability for the flyover. he took accountability for the "mission accomplished close-" behind him. you don't hear that in the book. he is that type of person. there was a lot of division within the staff about whether we should fly over or not. i'll tell you one thing about a crisis, i do not care how much technology there is, if you manage the crisis, the decision makers at to be in one place.
we were trying to plug into calls and do this. you cannot abdicate and make good judgment and make good recommendations. these things got compounded. my old friend and colleague, the press secretary, wrote a book very critical of president bush. he talks about the decision making. one thing he left out of the book was the last thing i told them. "whatever you do, do not let the press to the front of the plane to take a picture of you." the press was allowed up and they took the picture. the picture is worth a thousand words. that is it in spades. >> we had the clinton basdays.
with respect to the way other situations were handled, do we turn the page? do we write a new book on how to handle a crisis -- any kind of personal crisis in politics? >> can i just say i am shocked by how quickly louisiana got over the bitter days. there are two things people write about politicians. one of them is hypocrisy. but maybe they hate talking about sex more. i do not know. the media is clearly uncomfortable talking about sex.
in some respects i think if it was ok for louisiana, people kind of let it go. it did not seem to be that big of a deal here. people in washington stop talking about it because it seemed like people here stopped talking about it. >> unlike south carolina. there was a huge uproar. >> people in south carolina acted differently. >> the governor would not shut up. [laughter] shut it up and go away. it is an old of view. put it all out, get it all out, answer all the questions. he did not of that. he retreated to the political base. he retreated to his immediate base.
he won by 19 points in part because it was a private problem. i think that plus the fact that he did not feed the beast. >> i come from a perspective of a person being judged by someone who has a questionable character and ethical problems. i take the perspective of our society as a whole, how we are so in touch again our way of thinking and partisanship that we are overlooking the candidates and the parties in order to vote correct, in order to vote along party lines.
the democrats in this area were willing to overlook the character baggage of my opponent and vote democrat. i would be disappointed in myself and others would be disappointed in you -- private life ought to be private life. we were that way as a society all the way through john kennedy and beyond. somehow the rules changed. i tried to trace when that happened. it was somewhere around the gary hart issue. i am glad that issue did not bring down senator vitter. he is a reactionary he should not be in the senate.
i hope we have moved beyond that, but i am afraid to say we have not. in louisiana we surely have to. -- wheat surely have -- we surely have. but the majority of americans had not heard about you until you cast the vote for health care the first time. can you talk about what was or process in trying to act with democrats in a bipartisan manner? >> i think my role is very serious.
where does my loyalties lie? does it lie with the party? whenever i am confronted with this issue, i go to a series of steps. one, will this issue force me to compromise the values that i have? two, what is my duty to my people in regards to this issue? with respect to the health care bill, even though i did not -- i was not satisfied with the bill. i was not happy with the bill. but because it did not require may to compromise a moral position that i have, i felt it was my duty to represent my people by voting for it. when i was confronted with the
clinton bill, we were unsuccessful in doing that. i was again confronted with that bill. i voted along the constituency that i represent. with respect to the senate bill, i felt i could not but for it. i could not compromise that core values that i have. i was forced to live with myself and i must be able to live with myself. i voted against the senate version of the bill because of the conflict with my moral stance. i had to make a decision. >> how do we prevent government
overreach like the patriot act in war times when we're talking about bipartisanship? >> the fact that you raised it shows the wisdom. i am very much for try to get a long as best as you can. congressman cao articulated that very thoughtfully. i do not like it when everyone agrees. i screamed. i understood president bush, but i am still that the democrats for it. they were to bipartisan. -- they were too bipartisan. the simple question -- the
simple act that you asked this question means we are going to be ok. if you want to see a country with no partisanship, go to north korea. [laughter] [applause] we want to get it right. we want to get along and get things done. >> there is a batting average here. we have a far better batting average as a country we do work together and we bring people together in times of crisis. there are exceptions. i will not agree that the picture act was one of them. more times than not, history shows that bipartisanship works. people suffer politically for its. it is going to come in under budget. at the end of the day, it will
probably make money before it is over. >> the patriot act is a good example because it's the timing coincided with an explosion of the internet. that is in a really positive way, i think. you will never again have a day where transparency does not exist. it is simply impossible. that is because of the internet. that is a good thing. we saw it in the health care process in a way that was overwhelming and completely in the way into the legislators that were working on it. they could not cut a deal without someone finding out about it and posting it immediately for that deal to be scrutinized. it kept happening over and over again. congress will never be in a position again to sort of do the
back room deal, to do the late- night testing of an immense. -- late night drafting of amendments. >> i exactly agree that partisanship is necessary for american democracy. alexander hamilton and alexander hamilton, if i may plug my book, i started a chapter on the hatred that the two people have for each other. federal power vs. state power went through the civil war and through the last war. we can argue issues and debate
left verses right. i will embarrass somebody in this audience. chuck robb was a democrat in a republican state back then and stood for democratic principles. he was the son of a great democratic president. he stood for democratic principles. he founded the democratic leadership council, which everybody accused him of shedding his progressive principles and being a centrist, whatever awful words they called you, but what he stands for and what this counsel stands for, what all of us stand for, is i'm a liberal, and i am ready to debate conservatives, and have it out like paul used to do on "crossfire." you do it cybele. you disagree agreeably. you try to find a compromise. if i had to do anything lincoln, -- anything again, i
would not support of looking back -- would not have supported looking back. we need to support something so fundamental as changing health care. we should not have passed this on a partisan basis. we should have done it one step at a time. as much as i would have liked a full system, i don't represent the american people. i've with like to get their one step at a time. at least this council represents partisanship that is coming together, even though during fiscal liberal, fiscal conservative, and finding incremental change and compromise. [applause]
health care costs, spend that money on a campaign about health care. i agree on everything you said until the health care point. i am being given the signal that i can only take one more question. i am very sorry. >> i would like to just elaborate on senator vitter. i believe it was not just a personal matter. from what i remember, he did business with the prostitute. isn't that criminal? we are not looking at just a personal matter. he actually committed a crime. >> all right. we will pass on that one. >> i hope so. >> i want to to elaborate on that. >> my frustration comes from two
different things that have happened recently, the financial crises and the bp oil spill. i'm sorry. louisiana is my state. i lived there growing up. i have friends who live on the gulf who rely on the industry with their businesses, you know? gas stations and restaurants. i'm starting to think the president did not come to our aid. hedidn't come in my opinion, should have been there forcing bp to clean up the oil as it was
coming up immediately. >> what would you like to ask the panel? >> in the situation with the finance crises, to me, that is criminal. you cannot expect these several billionaires in front of the senate hearing committee to answer honestly, you know, about what happened. so, you don't become a billionaire by not knowing what is going on, you know? >> do we have a question? >> yes. my question is, what is it that me, that i, a freckle on the face of america, is supposed to expect from our government and the president of our country for protection? i am not talking about just protection against terrorism as
in 9/11, but terrorism as in chemical warfare, you know? that is how a lot of us perceive it. also, the financial crises, whereby these billionaires -- it was a fraud from the top to bottom. let me finish what i was going to say. this is going to happen again. i don't think that these people care about us. there was $27 trillion lost. that is money that is not being taxed on. that is a lack of income for the country as well. i want to know from you, what are you supposed to -- what is the government supposed to be doing for us, as far as protecting us, protecting our money, protecting our livelihoods?
that is what we see every day. we don't see terrorism every day. that kind of terror is a different type of terror. >> let me address the issue of the bp oil spill in connection with katrina. iey're both incidents where saw a breakdown in government. i saw a breakdown in the decisionmaking process with keen not -- with katrina and again with the bp oil spill. the cost, from my perception of this breakdown, is the desire of the administration to perfect their image. i saw that with katrina and again with the oil spill. i think we focus on trying to paint, trying to protect the
image, rather than focus on making decisions. we end up making bad decisions. that is what we saw. >> any other final thoughts? [applause] >> on "washington journal," ylan mui discusses the latest predictions for retail sales this holiday season. george liebmann on youth unemployment and ways to create jobs for young people. up to that, author bradford fitch talks about the power lobbyists have in washington and how to approach members of congress when you have an issue that needs to be addressed, plus your e-mails and phone calls. "washington journal" at 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. earlier this fall, josette sheeran gave remarks at the
national press club here in washington on global view of -- food security and property. here is a look. >> today, we are going to talk about my optimism, and why i believe we can and hunker -- can end hunger in my lifetime. i want to take a journey with you to the front lines of hunger. this is a cup from our school program in rwanda. it is representative of the fact that when we talk about 925 million people going hungry, what that means about one out of every six people on earth wake up each morning and aren't sure how to fill this cup with food. for the children we reach, often this is the only secure access to food they have in their life. most of the people in that
number, women and children, and still today, every six seconds, a child will die from not being able to access enough food to stay alive. my own personal awakening came in 1986. i was home with my first child, who was newborn. i was watching an image on television of a mother in ethiopia whose baby was crying out very weakly for food. she had no milk in her breasts. she also had no food. i thought, there cannot be anything more painful than not being able to answer your child's call for food. what struck me at that time, and now, and then, was there was enough food in the world for everyone to get access to something to beaeat. during the food crisis a couple of years ago, there was enough
food for everyone to have 2700 kilocalories. yet, a silent tsunami threw tens of millions of more into abject under. -- hunger. a solution to hunker is not quite rocket science. many nations have unlocked the keys. many hungry nations have defeated hunger. it does not require some brazen scientific breakthrough, like discovering a cure for a rare cancer. it is on one level quite simple. people need access to an adequate amount of nutritious food. >> you can see this entire event that the -- with the u.n. world food programme director on friday at 10:00 a.m. on c-span.
>> take a look at the new members of congress with the c- span video library. find a complete list under the congress that. every member is listed with their district map, their campaign finances, and any appearances on c-span. it is all free on your computer. it is washington your way. the peace corps is celebrating its 50th anniversary. erik williams, the director, joined former directors to talk about what they learned from running the peace corps. from harvard university, this is about an hour and 15 minutes. minutes. >> a story of a long-awaited return to a place where generations of had a history of making a difference. president kennedy challenge to america's young people to help people in need, promote good will over the world. that challenge became the peace corps. tonight our story comes from sierra leone, where a brutal
civil war forced the peace corps to pull out over a decade ago. tonight, ron allen has the story of the first u.s. volunteers to venture back in. >> jessica now does without so many things she took for granted in new hampsre. she draws on well water for a rnings in a bucket shower. breakfast is a fried chicken. away fromrd being home. waking up and thinking, i want starbucks. >> she is among 37 u.s. peace corps volunteers in sierra leone. a desperately poor nation, devastated by civil war, that so dangerous even the peace corps pulled out. 15 years later, the first american trainees are back, learning a local language, preparing to be teachers in
schools so ravaged students often do not even have books or pencils. scotts order was a firefighter in northern california. >> when things areard, they are good, and that is what the peace corps is about. >> the most important step is learning to live like the people they are here to serve. >> i wanted to be in a situation where i could when my skills to people who need it. there is no better place than here. >> he has his positions in missing quote -- his possessions in a single room. no running water, just a few comforts of home. >> this is a basic. bare minimum. >> they first came together in washington this summer. mcchrystal a program as a civilian embassadors launched bike -- recruits to a program as civilian embassadors launched by president kennedy. leaders here hope the arral of the americans send a clear
signal to the rest of the world that this country is peaceful, save, and moving forward. over the years, volunteers have left a lasting impression. he is an accounting here with fond memories of an american teacher from 40 years ago. what would you say to him? >> thank you. >> it is the warm welcome that they believe will help them through the tough days ahead, including the drudgery of laundry. show me your knuckles. >> my war wounds. >> we are not going to turn the country around, develop it, but if we can teach kids. >> you are a little part. >> they are carrying on what has been a tration and adventure for a young americans lending a hand in far flungcorners of the world. >> and because they are carrying
on a great tradition, in almost 50 years since the peace corps started, more than 200k00,000 americans have served in 139 countries. you can see a gallery of the photographs and submit your around at nbc.com. that is our broadcast for this wednesday night. thank you for being here with us. i am brian williams. we hope to see you back here tomorrow evening. good night. [applause] >> good evening and thank you for coming. i am mary jo bane, the academic
dean at the kennedy school, and i am delighted to welcome you to tonight's event. the john f. kennedy for at the kennedy school is celebrating a number of evens in honor of the 50th anniversary of john f. kennedy's presidency, and tonight is one of those events. we are celebrating the fact that 50 years ago this week president kennedy announced the formation of the peace corps. we have with us tonight the current director of the peace corps and three past directors of the peace corps. they cover four administrations and about 20 years of the peace corps's history. th hon. elaine chao was director of the peace corps from 1991 to 1992, during the
first bush administration. she went on to become the secretary of labor in the second bush and administration, and she was the longest serving secretary of labor since '05, and the first asian american woman in the cabinet. she is a distinguished fellow at the heritage foundation. mark gearen was director of the peace corps between 1995 and 1999. before that, he was a director of communications for the clinton white house. since 1999, he has been the president of hobart and william smith college. gaddi vasquez was director of the peace corps between 2002 and 2006, during the second bush administration. before that, he worked at the
securities and exchange commission and worked in politics in california. he is currently vice president for public affairs at southern california edison. aaron williams is the current director of the peace corps. he came to the peace corps directorship from all long career and development with us aid. he w a peace corps volunteer in the dominican republic back in theate 1960's. director williams asked that we begin our evening tonight by observing a moment osilence in honor and respect for a peace corps volunteer who passed away while serving in niger and a few days ago. her name was stephanie camp, and our thoughts d prayers are with her family and friends.
thank you for that. and now we will start the evening by thinking back 50 years ago this week, when president kennedy was at the university of michigan and, late at night, doing what you will see. >> how many of you are willing to spend your days -- as technicians or engineers? how many of you are willing to work in the foreign service? on your willingness to do that, not merely to serve one or two years in the service, but on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country, i think will depend the answer for another our free societcan succeed. i think it can. and i think americans are willing to contribute.
[inaudible] >> so, i was a peace corps volunteer in liberia between 1963 and 1965. i was in liberia when president kennedy was assassinated. and as i look back on tha experience in my own life, i can say that without question it changed my life. it expanded the world for me. it introduced me to public service. it set me on the path to the career i have had up unt this time. those of us who were in live. at that time were mostly teaching, teaching in elementary and secondary schools -- those of us who were in liberia at the time. as i look back on that, i think that wdid no harm. i think we talked a lot of
children. i think we were pretty good ambassadors for the ited states of america -- we talked a lot of children. we probably helped keep the president in office for an additional couple of years -- we taught a lot of children. that may not have been a good thing. we went in with the idealism to change t world and came out with a better sense of what it was. so that is one volunteers reflection back. you guys have been more recent and have had much broader experience, so i am hoping you would start us off by each taking a few minutes to speak briefly about the role of the peace corps in the lives of volunteers, in the lives of the nation, and in the lives of the world. >> i was not a volunteer. in fact my successor in 1993 was
the first peace corps director who was a returned peace corps volunteer, and that was a big deal with the agency, because the returned peace corps volunteers wanted of returned peace corps volunteer to be a director. i think my experienceas, as a director, was a very enlightening one for me as well. i learned so much about the world, even though i myself have had a very diverse background. just to sidetrack a little bit, one of the reasons i never became a volunteer was because i was an immigrant to this country. my formave years were spent in trying to survive in this country. so i did not really understand that there were all these other opportunities, institutions that
were available. and also, i was the oldest of six children. as a new immigrant family, it was my responsibility to help my parents support my younr sisters. but my experience coming a an immigrant was helpful in my experience as a peace corps director when we tried to recruit, because we have underrepresentation in certain racial and ethnic groups, and we tried to find why that was happening. a lot of times there were a lot of new immigrants -- the ability to forgo income for two years was simply a luxury that not many could afford. so that was helpful, iterms of teing our message to attract a moreiverse work force. there are some wonderful people here. i do not want to take too much
time. one of my most vivid memories when i travelled abroad is how much i learned from the volunteers and how enthusiastic they were, and how each one of them, regardless if they had good or bad experience, have all said that the two year or more experienced was a seminal part of their lives. their whole perception of the world changed. sometimes a volunteers were disappointed that they could not do more to contribute improving a country. what i tell them is, you as a single volunteer may not see the fruits of your labor, but i get the chance to travel throughout the world and to see the collectiveork of volunteers, almost a generation after generation, spread across the world, and the picture that i seek is a powerful picture of young young americans who are
willing to devote their lives to a country they have never been to, to a place they have never seen, to people they have never known, and try to help, and that is a powerful statement. >> thank you very much for having us. like ever went up here, i think we have all been thinking this weekbout the 50 years of the peace corps and what that would mean. to your question, i have thought of the domestic dividends. i think elaine reflected well about the difference for an individual peace corps volunteer, for the difference they make in communities around the world. i think one thing to put into the mix of our conversation is the domestic dividend, and what it means for our country, as brian williams reported. there now are 200,000
americans to have had this experience. when i was director, there were six members of congress who had been peace corps volunteers -- three republicans, three democrats. perfect. you see it everywhere. people have gone on to lives of consequence in business and law and medicine, all whole range of fields. it is with excitement that we gather here for the 50th. one thing to kick off, i think it may be time for those of us who care about the peace corps and certainly when you think about -- president kennedy did the bold idea, but really executed by sargent shriver, to cast an unflinching eye at the peace corps today. we should scale up with more volunteers and more funding, as
director williams is trying to do. more americans want to do it then is allowed for. we should look at the length of service. is it one size fits all? with more americans coming to the peace corps with different experiences. should we look at the use of technology? sargent shriver and went up to me with the first peace corps volunteers, they were sending cards back home and -- postcards back home and getting answers every six months. the world has changed. more partnerships. we've created ngo's and groups around the world. how do we expand international volunteer service? as we celebrate the 50th, i think shriver and kennedy would be urging us to think in different ways for how we honor the legacy of those 200,000
volunteers. for the past, for future volunteers, a ticket to the next 50 years. for my part, it was a privilege of a lifetime to be the director of the peace corps. i think we would all agree with that. it is something that -- i am excited to be able to reflect with you on this conversation. >> i will build on whamark said with regard to serving as director of the peace corps was an opportunity of a lifetime. it was transforming for me because it gave me the opportunity to lead and mana an organization of volunteers and professional sff who embraced fully the bold idea tha t president kennedy articulated. subsequent to my duties as director of the peace corps, i served as ambassador to the united nations organizations and
roll up from 2006 to 2009, where we dealt principally with food and agricultural policy during the global food crisis. and as i traveled the world dealing with these new issues, it was always a bit astounding to me that wherever i traveled, the fact that i did then the director of the peace corps, even in countries where the peace corps did not have the existing programs, have left such a meaningful and powerful legacy, not only in capital cities and amongst the ranks of leaders of government, but amongst community leaders and people at the grassroots, people who still remember the impact of americans serving in these communities. i will never forget my first trip overseas was to afghanistan shortly after the bombing had ceased, and we were meeting with the administer of women's affairs in kabul, wch you can imagine is a formidable task.
the minister spoke a great english. and i said to her, you speak great english. where did you get your training? she said to me, i was taught english by peace corps volunteers. those other kinds of special moments that, when you have these encounters, you realize the powerful legacy of the didend that has been talked about inteationally, where presidents and prime ministers were touched by americans in these rural villages anda have left that legacy. as an ambassador, i had the opportunity to interact with chiefs of mission. i just met with a gathering of former u.s. ambassadors in texas. many of them said, i was a peace corps volunteer. one
many leaders around the world are making an impact and making a distance. all of the first director of the peace corps post-9/11. my wife looked at me and said, "are you sure you want to take this job? this is going to be a tall order." she wondered if americans might turn away from the idea of going overseas in the aftermath of 9/11. a few communications and press mea folks conducted interviews with me as the first director after 9/11. they said surely you must be concerned that americans may not want to go overseas as peace corps volunteers. ladies andentleman, i am pleased to tell you that the numbers of applicants skyrocketed to historic levels.
the interest in the peace corps escalated in a dramatic fashion. and i think it speaks volumes about the american spirit and the willingness that we are not ntent to just be spectators. in effect, we want to be participants and shape our world and our nation, the future of this world. but also the fact that americans young and old are seeking the opportunity to advance the idea that presint kennedy articulate it. and 50 years later, it remains a bold and strong ideal. i have always believed that one of the tests of a great idea is its sustainability. d if the journey of 50 years is a test, we are in a great place for the peace corps to do even greater things in the years and generations to ce. thank you. >> what a wonderful introduction from a director. i find it is a privilege to say
that i have worked for the peace corps, acting having -- after having served as a volunteer in the peace corps. i never imagined i would be someone with the opportunity t do this. i have been a beneficiary of able to establish volunteers throughout this tenure. i have been in 18 countries. let me share what i consider to be one of the great, great success stories of the peace corps. when i go to the country, typically a will meet with the ambassador in the country. often, the embassador or some of the staff are former peace corps volunteers. i ll see the government officials, the minister of health, the minister of education. in their early years, they had a positive experiencas a peace corps volunteer. i want to talk about what i just saw last week in our very first peace corps country.
i ha business with our volunteers in education and health and information technology and small business to the element, etc. i will run into the heads of various international ngos doing great work in the field. they also are peace corps alumnus. we have this great net -- this great nexus 50 years later, which is a testimony to president kennedy, and the people who find the best way to find places for these volunteers to serve. i was in gonna last week. , was our first country -- ghana was our first country. 10 months after kennedy spoke, the first group went to ghana. by anytretch of the imagination of government, that is mirulous. [laughter] we have all had expiences with
initiatives that did n launch that fast. we have had 50 years of uninterrupted service in ghana. i had a chance to meet with the leadership in government, the private sector, the nonprofits, and society. every man and woman told me they had d a very positive, seminal experience, a life changing experience, with a peace corps volunteer. this is an incredible testimony for what the peace corps has done and the service america has provided in a country like ghana. everywhere you go, you see remarkable americans dedicated to service, who are patient, who are innovative, who are making a difference at the grass-roots level. they are working in the community, side by sid the peace corps volunteer might be the only american these communities will ever have the opportunity to get to know face to face, the true face of
america. it is americans working in thes places. the volunteers go there. we need to grow because more americans want to serve. as we grow the peace corps, we want to make sure we invest in training, staff, and support for volunteers. we are doing that. fortunately, the peace corps has always enjoyed bipartisan support. we continue to enjoy that support marvelously. i think that one of the things we need to do to build on the legacy of john f. kennedy and the marvelous dynamic leadership of the shriver is that we need to look for ways to expand the peace corps. this year, we moved into indonesia, sierra leone, and columbia -- colombia, three countries that were part of the kennedy-shriveregacy.
will continue to expand. the peace corps on the 50th anniversary gives us a tremendous mandate from the american people. i always told my staff and the people i talked to about the 50th anniversary. it is not so much an opportunity for us to pat ourselves on the back and say look how much we gave and how much we received. it is too late to let america celebrate the singular opportunity, this wonderful idea that president kennedy launched 50 years ago, october 15. look at what it has wrought. it is a truly major performance that has affected many. >> i want to ask a couple of questions about the effect of the peace corps, and then i want to pick up on mark's question about the future. let me ask you this question. many of you have spoken, as i did, about the effect of the peace corps on the peace corps volunteers, and on training a
country -- trimming a cadre of people who make contributions in other ways. let me ask you to speak more specifically. i would like to start with you, director williams. you came out of the aid community and came to the peace corps from working wit usaid. what has the peace corps contributed,ositively and negatively, to the development effort in africa, in some of the less developed countries of the world? then i hope others will come in on that question. >> i think the most important thing the peace corps has contributed to the development process, and one thing that is important to the development process -- it is a generation presses. the revolution took place in 1960. we need to reinvest in security worldwide. that is current in terms of development. the peace corps has always worked at the grass-roots level, the community level, in terms of
developing capacity, inspiring young people to get an education, to take on leadership responsibility. i think that is the important factor in what the peace corps provides in terms of recipient countries, in terms of how americans can interact on a global basis. that is a bottom-line accomplishment, one of the greatest investments we can hope to achieve. it is developing capacity at the local level. for example, whether we are working in health or education, we are trainer's of people. we are the ones who are trying to me sure we extend the hands of the community working on their priorities, because w have to be invited into a country, and we work our national priorities. to me, that is the most important thing we do. >> the important thing is that e peace corps has to remain relevant. part ofhat, as the director has alluded to, is that you have to have a willingness to adapt development programs that help
the peace corps in a host country. you have to be invited. during my tenure as, there was a program in mexico, which was a first in the history of the peace corps. it required delicate negotiations so the program was acceptable to the host government. it had to be relevant and a little bit out of the box to what the peace corps have traditionally done calling in to countries. this is what the government of mexico and representatives of the goverent were looking for. you have to be constantly assessing and raquel betting the programs throughout the peaceful world anto assure they are relevant, pertinent, and that it is not only yielding a positive for those countries. frankly,he volunteers in their service have to walk away with a sense of fulfillment, a sense of accomplishment, which in turn creates another recruiter for the peace corps once you come back to the united states and begin to readjust to home life. so i think those are critically
important. i think the training component is very, very important, the component of trading in a country to peace corps volunteers. it is very relevant. voluntrs want to feel they are well suited, well-trained, well- equipped to do their jobs, so there is a feeling of fulfillment and sustainability when difficult times come. i think any volunteer would tell you this challenges come earlier than later sometimes. that is very important. i think the relevance. i think in terms of what is negative, i will not name names, but i will simply say that some of the most agonizing episodes of our time, and i am not sure it is negative, but it can be viewed as negative, is when you have to make a decision about pulling out of the country. there are various reasons to pu out of the country. it can be security, emerging conflict, political stability. it can be a painful decision. at the end of the day, it is the dictor who is responsible to
make the decision. particularly in countries where you have countries to find,s the leader of the agencies, you have to clear your decision making and you have to be willing to articulate to the host country why you have to close, suspend, or modify a program in order to not damage, frankly, the great effort you have built or 10, 20, 30 years that has to be pulled for an anticipated exposure. the exposures have to be booked at very carefully. >> i do not think there is any question the peace corps has been a force for tremendous good, and in terms of development. we are fortunate to have aaron as a director. he has extraordinary experience amongst all the directors. we have all seen it in anecdotes. the challenge though it is in the work of development by its nature. it has a very long time horizon.
we are driven by the constant assessment, having quarterly reports, but the metrics used for approving new work. and afterwards, with public money, that is important. but i would put a bit of a marker in theonundrum of the peace corps. that is how you measure it in this way. we all of a story similar to this one. when i went to kenya after the bombings in 1995, i spoke to the minister of education. he said, "the first amican i ever met and the best teachers i ever had was my peace corps teacher." i went back to my office and looked him up. he was in south massachusetts. i ld him stories on the phone. he said, "i will have to look at the picture. there were 62 kids in my class." here is the development question.
when the measure the success of that peace corps volunteer? is it afte his 27 months of service? or is it 30 years later, in this random encounter with a peace corps director d a minister of education? this is not to say that we should not assess and measure. course we should. but there is by definition an important matter which shod hold on to in terms of the peace corps. that is the personal element or the bonds of friendship. that is one of the key goals in that transference. that is a very good question. >> is the teacher the peace corps teacher? >> i am a big believer in workers up out of a job.
>> in a globalized economy in which we work and live, we need to have better understanding of people across the world, outside of our borders. and it is important that they understand us. i never met a white person until i came to america. and i had no impressions. but i do remember we would hear stories about this all the time. i remember seeing peace corps volunteers. but i never met them. so in this world wide economy which we are now such active participants in, we need to understand how other people think and what their cultural background is, their philosophical outlook. the question is a very important one which i alluded to in my opening remarks. that is peace corps volunteers are very often type eight types. they want to have accomplishments under their belt. they are anxious to get things going. i tell them, "you are a
participant, a catalyst, a facilitator in this whole fabric of activity that is going on in the world. you may not be ab to see the product of your labor, but i do, at least a larger part did you do." i think that gives a lot of comfort to volueers. ere is not only the geographical expands but the temporal expense of time. you n see what volunteers do. and they do this in very modest one on one achievements, which is really so heartwarming. because that is how volunteers make progress. they reach each part, one heart by one heart. if i may, i will say two other things, one positive and one-. i am always so impressed with how fluent volunteers become in the language of their country. and we have the best course of-
speakers from these volunteers, most of whom are young. they pick up the language like that. i went to hungary in 1991. hungarian is a very difficult and which. the voluntee in hungary said there were volunteers there who are amazingly goohungarian speakers. we have now people who can speak another language, who understand the culture. when i wento russia, i was amazed by the can-do attitude that peace corps volunteers in fused to the people that had just emerged from the heavy yoke of totalitarianism, who felt their spirits were crushed. this was 1991. they felt they could not do anything on their own. yet we had this wonderful young people from america who would tell these former russis,
ukrainians, albanians -- albania was not a part of the former soviet union, but it was behind the iron curtain. people at the republics of the former soviet union would find they could have control over their lives, that they can start a new business if they wanted to, and that things will come together. i think the can-do attitude is another very wonderful thing. will say if there is anything negative, it is that sometimes cultures are hard. different cultures are very embedded and very, very complex. and sometimes, you know, we introduce a new element. and i think we need to be careful of unintended consequences when we go into a society and tried to encourage them, inspire them to do all sorts of different things. there might be unintended consequences as well. >> interesting.
let me ask if any of you would like to speak to the role of the peace corps in the foreign- policy of the united states. we were always being asked if we were spies. [laughter] we were not, at least as far as i know. [laughter] some of that still goes on, but we were also, as volunteers, kind of been contrasted with the folks in the gated communities of the embassy. that was when i decided i did not want to be a foreign service officer. i wonder if any of you would like to speak to the role that the peace corps plays in the foreign policy of the united states. >> i think we have a wonderful by president obama for americans to serve both internationally and domestically. the peace corps is a response to that call. that is an important part of our
foreign policy. i think that various countries seek peace corps volunteers working within their community, shoulder to shoulder, living under the same conditions the average person in those villages live. that gives them a perspective on america that could not gain any other way. this is a tremendous experience. everywhere i travel, we have seen this te and time again. i think the other thing that is important is that peace corps is an independent agency, but our biggest supporters and cheerleaders are the u.s. ambassador around the world. they recognize the balance here -- they recognize the value of peace corps volunteers. they do everything to make sure the have the space to do the great jobthey are doing in all theectors where we work. and that is really remarkable, i think. when you look at our partnerships with the government, with the nonprofit sector, with the business community, look at the way we develop young leaders in the
countries where we surf, and that we give americans a chance to engage and develop leadership skls that will be so important to our nation in this global connection that we all talk about, i think this is an investment that we need to continually build on as we grow. >> the only thing i would add is that i think the genius othe peace corps is that it is not part of our foreign policy apparatus. i think it is brilliant that is separate. i think it is brilliant it is not part o the communities. there is no other reason than security for the volunteers. there is no misunderstanding of that. i think it is brilliant that our volunteers are serving in areas that really do not have geopolitical- going to ghana and places where our relationships are not of a foreign policy imperative. i think from that genuine, authentic service, going in peace and friendship, ces very
good relations around the world. decidedly not an affirmative statement about american foreign policy, western values, any of those things that were really the inspiration for that. >> before we turn over to the audience, i want to askne more question. i want to discuss the comment you made earlier, mark, about the future of the peace corps. you said we need to be thinking now about how theeace corps should be different in the next decade and the next 50 years. you mentioned having it be bigger and in more countries and so on. but should the peace corps be doing different things? should there be a different emphasis? do you want to pick up on that? i will let everybody else. >> the psourse is the power of an idea, a brilliant idea, a brilliantly executed by secretary shriver. everything about the peace corps
is change and renewal, right down to the five-year rule. you can only work for five years. you bring in the new. certainly, i thinkhe energy of the founders, president kennedy and shriver, would say is it right for the next 50 years? is it really 27 months for everyone? isn't it a scandal that we have 10,000 applicants of americans who are wanting to do this? i do not know if they are already to the peace corps volunteers, but we say no to thousands of them. everyone of us went into congress to get more money. that is less money than the military marching band. i like the military marching band. but it is a matter of priorities. we can scale up with volunteers. we can look at the lengtof service. we can raise greater
collaborations and partnerships. the world is different than it was 50 years ago. if anyone would have wanted us to say, "keep mission central," look at different areas, use of technology, it would have been president kennedy and sergeant server. there are a number of different ways we can honor the past and say true to our core mission, but do it in innovative ways with the kind of volunteers we are attracted, the world in which we live, the technology they could use, the length of service they could have, and working to be at the very poor front, after 50 years of service, to bring a broader international service agenda around the world. >> how would you want things to change? >> i have a question for the current director. and this is actually allowed. and these are the kinds of
questions that are being discussed, when you are in that position. our volunteers allowed to have cars? no. are they allowed to have scooters'? >> no motorcycles. too dangerous. >> these are some of the things that are being continuously debated. they are the subject of robust debate. you want to facilitate the volunteers ability to get the job done, but do you -- but you do not want to take them so much out of the environment in which they are in that it distinguishes them as somehow being different, and thereby distancing them from the local nationals that they are supposed to work and serve. so i think these questio are very timely. mark, you raised wonderful questions. the tug always is how do you change but still hold dear the
common culture and toudown values which characterize the agency as well as the volunteers. i think the peace corps volunteer culture is one of the strongest of any agency i have seen. most volunteers -- there is a very strong culture. how'd you preserve that and tackle some of the issues like technology? that is a real issue. >> we have obviously given a lot of thought to this recently at the peace corps, because we are looking at how can we support the next generation of peace corps volunteers. how can the next generation of peace corps volunteers be most effective? one of the great advantages we have now and in the future is that we recruit change agents. the people we recruit are highly motivated, very talented. they are the best and the brightest of our colleges and
universities, people who have experience who could go back to the peace corps later in their career. we start out with critical raw material. the second thing is that we have a way of looking at the priorities of any given recipient country to determine what their priorities are. they are also more demanding. that is changing in the world of development. they are looking for people with higher skill levels. this is not 1960. when we went to liberia, they did not have a national development plan. now they do. the thing about the peace corps is that we take the generalist volunteer. the service is around 85% of our volunteers. we train them to be marked finance supporters and promoters, to be teachers of english as a second language, which is the fastest-growing area worldwide for the peace corps. the other thing is getting back to something about linguistic
skills. we train in 250 different by bridges. we he tremendous resources we can call upon to adapt to the new century and the new generation of peace corps volunteers. i am confident will be able to do that. we are going to look at the length of service, the fact that we are good to be thoughtful in terms of how we sharpen our tools to support volunteers. >> i would offer that one the aims of the peace corps going forward is that the peace corps increasingly look like the panel sitting in front of you tonight. the reality is that the peace corps has, notwithstanding the great efforts of the current director -- we made it a very high priority, my predecessors and successors -- the reality is that the peace corps has a long way to go to get to a place where it truly looks le america. the reality is that